Rassie needs his thinking cap so here are five lessons for the Boks
Springboks / 23 September 2019, 12:40pm / Jacques van der Westhuyzen
JOHANNESBURG – Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus has some thinking to do following his team’s 23-13 defeat in their Rugby World Cup Pool B opener to New Zealand on Saturday. Some of the players, too, need to have a good hard look at themselves.
Rugby writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen lists five things we learnt about the Boks:
Big pressure, big mistakes
The Boks performed Ok as a unit and asked some good questions, especially early on, but too many individuals let the team down by poorly executing their tasks. The box-kicking by Faf de Klerk was not nearly as accurate as it should have been and he too often put boot to ball, which was no doubt a directive from higher up.
Also, too many players dropped high balls, among them Willie le Roux and Handre Pollard, while several players slipped must-make tackles. In the Boks’ biggest game of the year, with a lot on the line, the players buckled under the pressure.
Boks caught out in broken play
It’s one thing rushing up in the faces of the opposition and shutting down their space and time - and doing it well - and quite another aligning correctly and doing the same when there is no defensive line. The Boks have shown they’re deadly defensively on first phase ball and on Saturday they genuinely rattled the All Blacks.
But in broken play when there is no line and attacking players are running off shoulders and at different angles and different paces, it’s not so easy to stop a seriously clinical team that knows how to take advantage of holes and gaps in the defence.
No innovation on attack
It’s almost as if the Bok players are following instructions to the T with no room for playing it as they see it - especially at close quarters. When scrumhalf De Klerk burst onto the scene four years ago he was a sensational attacker; sniping around rucks and mauls and asking all sorts of questions.
He is now, it seems, required only to kick, and never allowed to read a situation and have a go. It also looks as if Pollard and Le Roux, too, have no licence to change things up.
Rassie reluctant to roll the dice
The Boks trailed 17-3 at half-time and needed a fresh edge going into the second half. Coach Rassie Erasmus though seemed reluctant to shake things up and allow different players to pose different questions to the All Blacks. Erasmus needed to be bold and he needed to make a statement by sending on an all-new front row, RG Snyman as well as Hershel Jantjies and Frans Steyn.
De Klerk and Pollard weren’t at their best, and they needed to be replaced, at the start of the second half. Why Steyn - picked because of his versatility and experience - wasn’t properly used, is mystifying.
Cheslin Kolbe is a Bok star
Peter de Villiers, Heyneke Meyer and Allister Coetzee were all too afraid to pick the little winger with the big heart because they felt he was too small for Test rugby. But, well done to Erasmus for backing an in-form player who has shown he is the real deal. Kolbe has been magnificent for the Boks ever since getting his chance under Erasmus and on Saturday showed there is no substitute for pace, skill, guts and hunger.
Kolbe also looks like a player who wants to succeed ... now we must just hope his determination and desire rub off on his team-mates.